How do I sell my chocolate?
October 28, 2005 9:20 AM   Subscribe

How do I get people to purchase my chocolate bars?

I've been making chocolate from scratch for a couple of years. I think there's a market for artisanal chocolate bars here in my town and I'd like to finally make a little money off my hobby. How do I get started?

Will I have to jump through any legal hoops?
posted by viewofdelft to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
An easy way to start is to sell it on Etsy in the Plants & Edibles category.
posted by smich at 9:33 AM on October 28, 2005

Also, if you want to sell your chocolates to retailers, depending on the requirements for your state, you may have to get a license to sell your goods and a commercial kitchen to produce in. Your city may have its own requirements in addition to the state requirements.
posted by smich at 9:38 AM on October 28, 2005

Talk to local merchants. You won't be the first guy to walk through the door asking to join their inventory, so don't feel you're imposing. It's part of doing business -- and if you're right, you'll both make a profit. Pick a favorite store where you think your bars would sell, and talk to the owner.
posted by cribcage at 9:46 AM on October 28, 2005

I suggest hitting up local independant coffee shops.
posted by falconred at 10:17 AM on October 28, 2005

Get a table at a local swap meet, flea market, farmer's market, etc. You get out in your community, and you get to do a little informal market research before you approach a retailer.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:54 AM on October 28, 2005

Depending on your product you could also do street fairs. I think they're fun just as an experience; the money-making is a bonus. I do Eastern Market in DC but there's surely stuff in your town.
posted by phearlez at 11:07 AM on October 28, 2005

If you want to do this fairly seriously, the first thing you want to do before selling your candy bars on a large scale is to set up an LLC, that is a Limited Liability Corporation. This means that if someone sues your business your personal assets (like your house or your car) won't be at risk the way they would with a Sole Proprietorship. As a food-based business this will be a slight risk, so CYA. Check your chamber of commerce or small business association. This is not impossible to do even without business experience.

There may be some health precautions you will have to take in your own home when making these bars in order to meet state guidelines and you may have to submit to inspection. Contacting your local heath department might be a start. I've also gotten excellent advice from my city councilman.

There are three main ways for someone producing handmade products to sell their merchandise:

1. Sell your chocolate bars yourself at local street fairs, farmers markets, or garden shows. Hand out business cards and free samples
2. If you are still in Lawrence, try contacting some of the boutiques on Massachusetts Avenue or in KC. Send sample bars and follow up with a phone call for an appointment. Emphasize how special your chocolate is and how it is a local product. Make sure you have the capacity to fill orders on time.
3. Start your own website or use Etsy.

I have my own small artisan business and make most of my money off of option #1.
posted by Alison at 11:47 AM on October 28, 2005

Perhaps give your chocolate away and count on word of mouth. This worked out extremely well for a friend. For her it was pastries and she gave them away at every single opportunity. Co-workers, friends, family, complete strangers, everybody who isn't diabetic is a potential customer. She threw parties and handed them out out by the basket-load. In less than a month afer her "shock and awe" campaign began, emails poured in from complete strangers asking her to whip up cakes for just about every occassion. Such a strategy will require a bit of upfront investment but you'll pick up a lot of potential customers, get a lot of good press, and collect valuable feedback on what people like and don't. It'd be worth it.
posted by nixerman at 12:03 PM on October 28, 2005

I have a friend in the bay area who made a nice business delivering homemade chocolate to workplace cafeterias and such.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:57 PM on October 28, 2005

Contacting your local heath department might be a start.

This is very important, as you're likely to get a legal kibosh on your work unless you're doing this within the law. If you're required to have professional kitchen facilities, don't panic. Try to make an arrangement with a local restuarant to use their kitchen during downtimes (often this is wicked late at night or early morning). I have a good friend who makes and sells his salsas this way.
posted by Miko at 2:27 PM on October 28, 2005

It looks like you need to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Inspection Program of the Kansas Department of Agriculture. As noted above, that probably requires use of a licensed, commercial kitchen. Your best bet is probably to call them and have them send you information (unless you're more successful at finding information on the website than I was.)
posted by WestCoaster at 2:33 PM on October 28, 2005

If you're a member of a church or community group, there's a good chance that their facility is registered as a commercial-grade kitchen, and they'd have a lot more downtime than a regular restaurant.

You also might encourage friends and family to give your chocolate as gifts at Christmastime. You could include some sort of special note in the packaging that would encourage further sharing-of-the-info (maybe some sort of "gift that keeps on giving" kind of thing?). The upside is that it's a natural vehicle for word-of-mouth. The downside would be that people might pigeonhole your chocolate as a "Christmas/Hannukah/etc." kind of service.

I would also strongly encourage you to consider the packaging that you'll be using. Small companies like Steep Tea have done great things with packaging, and it really enhances the customer experience of / interaction with the product.

Also, I'd suggest that you develop a story around which you can base your product / packaging / marketing / etc. Your customers will be more likely to spread the word if you give them a good story to tell. Think of the stories on the Paul Newman salad dressing bottles.
posted by Alt F4 at 6:37 PM on October 28, 2005

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